YIDDISH ART THEATRE. On August 30, 1918, actor-director Maurice Schwartz and his troupe of Yiddish performers presented Z. Libin Man and His Shadow at New York's Irving Place Theatre. While Schwartz did not refer to his organization as the Yiddish Art Theatre until 1921, most historians mark the founding of the company with this presentation. The Yiddish Art Theatre continued to produce until 1950, although during the last decade of its existence Schwartz staged Yiddish drama less regularly.
The longevity of the Yiddish Art Theatre was, of course, its most noteworthy accomplishment. Schwartz kept the theatre operating even when Yiddish- speaking audiences began to disappear. Schwartz's company was also part of the American art theatre movement of the 1920s and 1930s. The Yiddish Art Theatre brought European playwrights such as August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, and Leonid Andreyev, as well as new theatrical styles, to the attention of the American public. Such great stars as Jacob Ben-Ami, Celia Adler, and Rudolph Schildkraut performed with the troupe. Soon-to-be influential designers, including Boris Aronson, Mordecai Gorelik and Sam Leve, were given opportunities by Schwartz. Furthermore, the Yiddish Art Theatre was a training place for young troupe members, among whom were Paul Muni, Stella Adler, and Luther Adler. Schwartz was also the most successful producer of significant Yiddish playwrights, including Peretz Hirshbein and Sholem Asch. The artistic success of the Yiddish Art Theatre resulted in its influencing leading American theatre practitioners, such as Arthur Hopkins and the Group Theatre.
The soul of the Yiddish Art Theatre was Maurice Schwartz. He was the troupe's director, leading actor, business manager after 1920, and he frequently authored, adapted, or translated dramas. (Between 1918 and 1920 Schwartz's partner and business manager was Max R. Wilner, the stepson of David Kessler, the great star of the popular Yiddish theatre.) Schwartz was born in the Ukraine in 1890 and arrived in New York City when he was thirteen. Prior to founding